March 20, 2008

Employee Evaluations and Why We Hate Them

The Company that I work for has great employees, and I am one of them. But, my performance doesn't show it.

(The Company name has been removed out of respect to their response to this article and my complaints regarding my annual evaluation. )

Mention performance reviews to most any employee and their pulse will sharply quicken. Ask most anyone about their last workplace review and expect exasperation and frustration.

Why does this subject strike fear into our hearts and stir up so many negative emotions? Maybe it’s because workplace annual performance reviews sum up the basic core of our personalities, moral standards, life goals and innate abilities by someone who rarely, if ever, walks in our footsteps!

Our truths are meticulously reviewed and judged. Our basic motives often erroneously determined to be less than perfect before we have opportunity to deliver closing arguments. And, the verdict is usually, “Not guilty but not good enough for a pay raise”.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve comforted a co-worker after a lackluster, discouraging or outright false performance review.

“Don’t worry about it. Nobody ever reads it after it’s put in your file. By law they can’t pass this information on to another employer.” Usually to little avail on the frustrated I’m-going-to quit-this-job vowing employee!

I’ve written about this before. In fact, an unfair and totally outrageous annual performance review of my nursing performance, written by a biased misinformed unit supervisor (NOT where I am employeed now!) last year caused me to question my nursing career and shook me to the core! It did steer me into a different direction of nursing, and is the opening chapter of my next book, “The Laughing Place”.

Last week, unbeknown to me, I think the nursing director at "The Company" completed my first performance evaluation. The first I knew of it was when a two-page report was handed to me to sign during a quick visit to the office to drop off some paperwork. At first, Human Resources (HR) couldn’t even tell me who had completed the epic piece of paper laid before me.

Another "ho-hum" evaluation with all the check marks equally down the middle to keep everybody in the company satisfied that we are up-to-date in our paperwork, and no effort spent trying to figure out the real nurse on the case.

Few of my co-workers and/or supervisors are aware of how many years I’ve spent as the person in charge of running the nursing aspect of a company and evaluating its employees. While evaluations are never easy, and often my best attempts to create honest, positive performance reviews that praised my staff’s strengths and nurtured higher goals, fell flat, I always tried to offer no surprises and include accurate reflections of my employees in a most positive way.

I hold no grudge against anyone where I work as a contract nurse, and really do enjoy working for this nationally recognized professional medical staffing company. It is listed as one of the leading providers of medical staffing, home health and wellness services in the United States.

There are several young men in the local office who are the 'schedulers" whom I have the most contact with. They are all great to work with and have a fantastic sense of humor in an often stressful and usually thankless job! It's very difficult for me to ever say no when they call and ask if I can change my schedule or pick up a case in an emergency. They have a lot of positive energy and are always respectful and professional. (Even though they tease me about my last name, they always pronounce it perfectly.)

But, it appears that they have no input in my annual evaluation... First mistake by Corporate leaders.

Then there's my immediate supervisor who apparently also has not contributed to my evaluation because none of the statements she made to me when evaluating me (three times) in the home setting where I work, were included in the formal paperwork being placed before me.

"The director said to tell you that the orders you wrote were excellent. Your paperwork is excellent. It's something we can use when are records are reviewed. We'll bring them (the inspectors) here an example of great home nursing," she has emphatically informed me more than once.

The kind but slightly flustered HR person admitted that my required annual skills reviews are up to date. The two-step TB test has been completed and my CPR Certification is current.

Somewhat surprised by the lackadaisical, apathetic effort to outline my strengths and weaknesses, I wrote in my comment section that after almost 40 years of nursing, I would have expected something in my work to be a more than just “ME” (meeting expectations). I gave it back to the HR person with a heavy heart.

At least it wasn’t a bad report. It simply didn’t reflect my personality at all. Except maybe an inference to me Virgonian tendency to be meticulous in detail with the brief comment, “ Linda is meticulous in her care of the client”. Perhaps a reflection of my request for all my medication records to be rewritten when I found several typo errors that I would not put my signature on unless they were corrected.

If it was the nursing director who completed this required review, (she signed it), I’m not intending to demean her at all. The few brief encounters and phone calls we’ve had have always been pleasant, courteous, positive and professional. The first (and only?) time she spoke to me at the office commending a doctor’s report I had done, I quietly asked one of the schedulers who she was. I suspected she was the nursing director, but I had never been introduced to her in person. (I think she's fairly new there.)

Maybe performance reviews were something she inherited from her predecessor and something she also had not much control over. Perhaps I should have made more of an effort to get to know my director and allow her to discover more of my unique qualities and experiences I offer to "The Company". (But, who has time? And one wonders if anyone really cares.)

In a surprise and shocking turn of events, yesterday’s mail included this same performance evaluation requesting that I sign and return it. It was the original form. Nothing changed.

Oh boy, now I could do what I should have done the first time! I will explain in each section how I think I actually do better than 'average" and why! And, I will request this be attached and placed in my file.

This is what my husband had said he would do if presented with an appraisal that was not a true reflection of his career abilities and strengths. (In fact, he told me that is exactly what he did several years ago after three years of the exact same middle-of-the-road check marks and bland comments.)

Will anyone read it? Probably not. Will it affect any raise I might be in line for? Probably not.

I suppose the question; "Will Social Security still be around when I retire in a few years?" would be the more appropriate question now.

What's the big deal about those phony, undeveloped evaluations?

Appreciation? Pride? The truth? Honesty. Satisfaction? Acknowledgement?

To be politically correct, I should do what the director didn’t do. I should call her and ask for a sit-down to review and discuss who I am and what my expectations are for the company I work for. I’m sure she would be happily surprised to discover I really care about my career and the effort I take to keep everyone happy. The company. The doctor. The patient. The family. The schedulers. My supervisors. Even “corporate”! Maybe she would be shocked to discover that I really do care about this evaluation.

As my Jim often says, “In 50 years, what difference will it make?”

If it means spending money, I usually decide to spend.

If it means I need to “get over it”, I say, “Let me enjoy my bad moment”.

And it will probably mean that after I write and post this, I’ll sign the second replica and move on down the road of life like I always have.

I’ll keep reassuring weeping co-workers that it really doesn’t matter. It’s just paperwork that no one will remember 50 years from now. (When my oldest child is 86-years old and I am dust scattered in the wind.)

Take Care on the Journey,



Clay Feet said...

There are two issues that I see here. The first is that politically speaking - or more like exposing - the only reason for these totally fabricated reports and exercises is to create false paperwork to justify the pre-determined decisions of upper management to deny the lower classes any pay increases so as to reserve more money for their own bonuses. That this creates great distress on the part of all those who have to be lied about in the process is of absolutely no interest to them as they are considered completely dispensable.
I was even told one time by my immediate supervisor that he really wanted to give me a much better review but that he was forbidden to do so because of the above reason. Bingo.

The second issue here is whether anyone facing this kind of enormous pressure to simply sign and return a sheet of obvious lies is willing to take the high risk of rocking the boat and challenging the whole carefully constructed sham or whether their job is more important. Each person has to be willing to make their own examination and choose their own priorities. But that decision ultimately not only reflects but influences the kind of person they are and are becoming.
This is really about others attempting to force - with the backing of a whole corporation and all of their resources and intimidation - a false identity onto someone and whether that person is willing to accept it. If viewed in the light of true reality this is actually a blatant case of identity theft and replacement.

Linda Meikle said...

Hummm. I gave this 24 hours of thought before I posted it, reviewing everything you so adaptly mention here.

I also gave my work a "heads-up" about this article, and have been put on stand-by for a "phone call".

One can always dream that rocking the boat will make a difference for yourself - and others.

Oh, here's the phone ringing...

Linda Meikle said...

The ringing phone was hubby regarding a housekeeping matter, but at his suggestion I have removed the Logo. He was concerned that I didn't have the right to use it...Actually, I believe he is slightly distressed at my mentioning where I work by name. Is that necessary? Not for me. If I'm asked to remove it, I can and I will. The point is still the same for all.

Linda Meikle said...

Surprise Ending! The person who wrote my evaluation called me. She promised to re-write my evaluation!

"I'm sorry. I appreciate and respect you and I will re-write your evaluation to reflect who you are," she said in a very caring and personal way.

I'm still in shock, but surely grateful and appreciative of the administration at Maxim for taking this unusual step.

Thank-you from Linda

The Cat's Meow said...

I never liked reviews!!! When at Art Mart I got to where I'd tell them what the paper said before they even gave it to me, it would always be; " your a great worker, no one here could do the things you do , your an asset to the company, BUT you have a bad attitude." my response was always yep, I know (with big smile), how much money do I get? Then one time they even bitched because I was TO concerned about safety ,my reply 'Well I was on the Boiler Makers Union safety committee when I worked in the shipyards, I didn't know you could be to safe!!!
I think reviews are seen by the person who is writing them as a waste of time,who cares, no one See's it but the 2 of you, I have Lots more important things to do.
Don't be to hard on who ever wrote your review, but hopefully they'll try to see beyond the checked boxes and see who you are and get to know your work.
Just a LITTLE kindness goes a loooong way in employs attitudes!!!
Love to the BEST NURSE EVER.
Lil sis